What in the world is happening in East Ridge?
I’ve been vacillating between depression and optimism over the events of the last few weeks.
Last Thursday, in a two-minute meeting, the East Ridge Housing and Redevelopment Authority imploded. There were about two-dozen residents in attendance, many of those being the nucleus of the group East Ridge Citizens for Property Rights. The brevity of the proceedings was striking.
It was obvious the four commissioners in attendance (Curtis Adams has been ill for quite some time) were bitter over having spent a year working to get this organization off the ground only to have an insurrection by property owners shut them down.
Briefly, the ERHRA’s stated goal was to redevelop dilapidated commercial properties within the business district of the city. For years, many, many people in East Ridge have bemoaned the decline of businesses along Rinngold Road. The pessimists among us often cried from all corners of social media that the city’s main drag was “becoming Rossville Boulevard.” The ERHRA was going to do something about it.
Here’s where it got sideways. The ERHRA included residential neighborhoods in its boundary map, the area where the government could legally come in and seize private property. To compound the problem, the ERHRA sent out a ridiculously blunt letter informing those people living and owning homes and businesses within the district that their property was subject to being seized.
What followed was an uprising. People in East Ridge were not going to sit still and let government do this to them. The housing authority folded.
I contend that none of this would have come to pass had this not been an election year. No, any other time, I believe the city would have just crammed it down the throats of the residents and moved forward with whatever plan it had in mind.
Now, some of the folks who organized the East Ridge Citizens for Property Rights group are starting to talk about running for City Council or even Mayor. These people are young, educated and offer a fresh perspective for addressing problems and issues in East Ridge.
The old guard, the perennial office seekers, might have to re-think how this campaign season is going to shake out. The idea that to gain elective office here one simply has to have graduated from East Ridge High School and profess one’s love for the city may not be enough come November.
_ On top of the implosion of the ERHRA, Mayor Brent Lambert may appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court on June 5. You may remember, Lambert recorded telephone conversations with County Commissioner Tim Boyd and then ran to the district attorney claiming that Boyd threatened him. A Grand Jury agreed and Boyd was indicted on a charge of extortion.
Boyd’s attorney, Lee Davis, is asking a special judge to dismiss the charge. Davis has subpoenaed Lambert’s bank, phone and e-mail records related to his campaign contributions.
Adding to Lambert’s woes, Laura Seneker filed an ethics complaint against him last week. The complaint is centered on the campaign contributions of developers in June of 2017 when Lambert was not running for any office. The records of those contributions are what Boyd’s attorney is after in criminal court, too.
Nobody seems to know how this ethics complaint works. City Attorney Mark Litchford has yet to review it. In fact, Seneker’s ethics complaint asks that Litchford, the city’s ethics officer, hand off the complaint to a special counsel, as Litchford has a conflict of interest.
Lambert said earlier this year that he would not run for re-election for a third term as mayor. After losing his bid for the Republican nomination for Hamilton County Commission, Lambert said he would devote the remaining seven months of his term to continuing with the city’s economic development.
_ Denny Manning, the former councilman that wears the white shoes, is running for his old job. Manning, who also serves as the city’s Chaplain, spoke out at a public meeting calling the mayor “a chicken” for not showing up. City Manager Scott Miller fired the Chaplain for his actions. Miller then reconsidered and hired Manning back.
What could be better publicity for beginning a campaign. I’m told that for months Denny has been going all over the city telling people that if he’s elected he’s going to fire Miller. Miller fired Denny first. Then, of course, he re-hired him. Will Denny get the last laugh? Oh, Dear God, I hope not.
_ The proposed construction of a pavilion behind City Hall looks doomed. The $1.5 million project was met with jeers by people at a public input meeting. Most of those in attendance lived nearby and didn’t want the noise and traffic that a multi-use building would bring. The sentiment at the meeting was to use that money to raze the old McBrien School at a cost of $500,000. Pocket the remaining million and everybody is happy with more green space in our city and the decaying eyesore that has been on the plate of our elected officials is gone.
_ The Chick-fil-A in Jordan Crossing had its grand opening last week. The wildly popular chicken restaurant may just turn into the “crown jewel” of the Camp Jordan area. Along with the soft opening of Marco’s Pizza up the street at Ringgold Road and Truman, the new establishments give the Pioneer faithful something to chew on.
And, it just might give Mayor Lambert an opportunity to point to an achievement in terms of economic development in the waning days of his administration.
I can see it now … Lambert from the dais at City Hall; Let them eat chicken, eh, let them eat pizza.
I think the phrase, Brent, is “Let them eat cake.”